The Vodacom Stormers got the Neo Africa Tri-series off to the best possible start at Newlands on Saturday by annihilating the Western Force 54-12 in a rather one-sided game.
The home side led 41-0 at halftime against a Force side that didn’t comprise any of their big-name players when they ran out. Former Springbok and Lions flyhalf Andries Pretorius never took the field.
The Stormers, however, could be happy with their effort. They looked sharp on the attack, scrummed with authority, the lineout was solid and they turned over plenty of Force possession.
When the Force asked question of their defence, the Stormers had all the answers. All in all, it was a good warm-up for the Super 14, even though the wholesale changes made by coach Allister Coetzee had an impact on his side’s intensity in the second half.
The Force also brought on their big guns such as James O’Connor, David Pocock, Brett Sheehan, Matt Dunning and Nathan Sharpe and they put up much more resistance.
It took the Stormers only two minutes to score the first try of the game when fullback Joe Pietersen crossed after a defender completely misread a grubber kick from centre Jaque Fourie.
Pietersen converted to hand his side a 7-0 lead.
The Stormers extended their lead in the 11th min. after some delightful play by hooker Tiaan Liebenberg. The try came as a result of a counter-attack by wing Gio Aplon, who forced a ruck.
Liebenberg found some space on the left-hand sideline and then kicked ahead. No 8 Duane Vermeulen retrieved and gave the ball to captain Andries Bekker who dived over with not a defender in sight. Pietersen converted.
Just a minute later the Stormers pack drove yards with their opposition before Aplon used his dancing feet to great effect next to the sideline before sending Liebenberg over the try-line. Pietersen hit the target again to make the score 21-0.
Pietersen also slotted a penalty in the 17th to make the score 24-0 after some cynical play at a maul by the Force. The Force then found their feet and stemmed the tide for a while, but it was the home side that got the scorers working again in the 39th min. Pietersen got his second try after some good work by Juan de Jongh and Jaque Fourie. Pietersen converted (31-0).
A minute later the Stormers again ran the Force defence ragged and this time it was flyhalf Peter Grant who scored (36-0).
Springbok wing Bryan Habana scored his first try in Stormers colours in the 37th min after some power play by his forwards.
Pietersen got the scoreboard rolling again in the 43rd min. when he succeeded with a penalty attempt (44-0). The Force got their first try a minute later when wing Joelin Rapana scored after centre Josh Tatupu retrieved the ball after a kick ahead (44-5).
Force wing Mark Swanepoel scored under the poles after a good build-up by his mates and James O’ Connor, who came on a few minutes earlier, converted.
Stormers substitute wing JJ Engelbrecht scored his side last try in the 72nd min. Dunning received a red card for punching, while Stormers flank Jacques Potgieter also saw red after he became involved in the ruckus that followed.
On Tuesday evening the Western Force take on the Sharks and on Friday night the Stormers play against the Sharks, who will provide a better yardstick of the Stormers strengths and weaknesses than the hapless Force.. In Saturday’s curtain-raiser a Western Province XV beat Maties 58-26.
Vodacom Stormers – Tries: Joe Pietersen (2), Andries Bekker, Tiaan Liebenberg, Peter Grant, Bryan Habana, JJ Engelbrecht; Conversions: Joe Pietersen (4), Peter Grant (1); Penalties: Joe Pietersen (2), Peter Grant (1).
Western Force – Tries: Joelin Rapana; Mark Swanepoel; Conversions: James O’ Connor.